A surprising move back to the Czech Republic and to the Czech League, where he’s totaled 17 goals and 33 points through his first 34 games for Olomouc HC, has clearly been good to ex-Bruins center David Krejci.
But even with that success, and a major time difference when it comes to keeping tabs on his own team, Krejci hasn’t been completely removed from the Bruins experience. In fact, Krejci has noticed one thing when it comes to this year’s Bruins team, and if he’s being truthful, it’s clearly a little bothersome.
Catching up with Miroslav Horák, Krejci touched on the fact that there are centers in Boston currently getting what he always longed for but rarely, if ever, for the majority of his time under B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy.
And that’s David Pastrnak on the right side of the Black and Gold’s second line.
“Coach Cassidy rarely let the two of us play together,” Krejci said (huge shoutout to Twitter friend Bořivoj Jarek for the translation). “It must have been something to split the first line and give Pasta to me. It was a maximum of two matches.
“After years, I leave Boston and suddenly it is possible. That surprised me. [Cassidy] always told me that he had no reason to take Pasta off the first line and that it would be as short as possible to dismantle the forces. I had to take it. But now Pasta has five or so many matches on the line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. Strange.”
Krejci, who finished last season with eight goals and 44 points in 51 games, also felt that the connection with Pastrnak made the switch that rarely came a no-brainer for a Bruins team that was seemingly always looking for more balanced scoring.
“I dare say that whenever we played together, it worked for us and it was useful for the team,” Krejci offered. “Sometimes the coach put us on overtime or on four against four, the mutual chemistry was there right away, we scored goals. Now I’m just thinking that he could have taken Pasta out first for me and everything could have looked different.
“But that’s the way it is, I don’t blame the coach.”
Krejci has always been a pretty blunt guy, to be honest, but this is perhaps his most direct shot yet. It was obvious that Krejci always wanted Pastrnak to his right — Krejci’s issues with not having or losing his preferred linemates was always an under-the-radar storyline, with Krejci at one point saying that all the guys he’s had chemistry with get traded or leave as free agents — and he’s not necessarily wrong when referencing Cassidy’s obvious reluctance to drop No. 88 down to Krejci’s right.
Now, the flip side of that is that the Bruins had an absolute wagon of a first line with Pastrnak with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. It was the undeniable best line in hockey for a good two or three-year stretch there. But it was rarely, if ever, broken up. Even when the Bruins were a wildly top-heavy team that struggled to generate much of anything below that line.
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This time around, with that line not looking like its typical superhuman self, Cassidy has been more willing to shake things up, most recently putting Pastrnak with Hall and Haula, as Krejci noticed. It’s worked (for the most part) out of the gate in 2022, as the Bruins captured wins in three of their last four games, and with Pastrnak ending his scoring drought in Tuesday’s win.
But Krejci believes that Pastrnak needs to have a right-shot center feeding him the puck to be at this best. He also believes that his own departure, along with the 2020 departure of Torey Krug, has played a part in Pastrnak’s on-ice struggles.
“I don’t want to speculate, I just think it was reflected in his numbers,” Krejci said.
As for a potential return to the Bruins, which would now require Krejci passing waivers, the veteran of nearly 1,000 NHL games (all with the Bruins) said that he’s unsure if and when that’ll come to be.
“No one knows right now, including me,” Krejci said.
But if and when that day comes and Krejci walks back through those doors, it’s clear who he’ll want to play with. And given what he’s seen this year, and what the Bruins have seen from their line combinations in 2021-22, it’d be hard to deny him.